Being hurt at work can significantly impact one’s ability to provide for their family and engage in activities that bring them joy. In some cases, workers are permanently disabled because of a severe injury. Fortunately, Missouri allows workers to pursue workers’ compensation benefits by taking the appropriate steps after an on-the-job accident. For legal help obtaining workers’ compensation benefits after being hurt at work, contact the experienced workers’ compensation legal team at Steelman Gaunt Crowley today at (573) 341-8336.
Seek Medical Attention
The first step after being injured at work is for the employee to seek medical attention. Some injuries may appear minor initially but worsen over time if left untreated. Being seen by a doctor early on helps increase the chance that the medical team will identify and begin treating injuries before worsen.
Another critical reason to seek medical attention right away is to ensure the worker has the necessary paper trail to support their claim for benefits. If the worker does not go to the doctor immediately, the employer and insurance company may use this fact to prove that they do not require benefits. Workers can ensure their legal rights remain protected by visiting a medical professional immediately after the injury.
Report the Injury to Your Employer
The next step is for the worker to report the injury to their employer. As the Missouri Department of Labor explains, the law requires employees to report workplace accidents and injuries to their employers within 30 days after they suffer the injury or realize they are injured.
For injuries acquired from workplace accidents, the date of the accident typically starts the 30-day clock. The deadline for long-term injuries (such as carpel tunnel syndrome) begins when workers know or should have realized their job was physically harming them.
Keep Accurate Records About the Accident and Injury
Workers should also keep accurate records regarding any accident and the resulting injury. For example, they might take pictures of the scene and their injuries and record statements by other workers who witnessed what happened. The worker can use this to support their benefits claim, and preserving the evidence shortly after the workplace accident helps ensure that items that are important to the worker are documented.
Workers can also begin keeping a pain diary to document how the injury impacts their day-to-day functioning. They should likewise save receipts for any approved pain medication or medical supplies they used to treat the injury and make a note of the doctor’s appointments they attend.
File a Workers’ Compensation Claim
Under Missouri law, employers must investigate and report work injuries to their workers’ compensation insurance carrier within 30 days after receiving notice of the injury or accident. Missouri law also requires employers to provide injured workers with reasonable medical care to treat the condition and help them return to work. In most cases, workers can choose their medical provider and do not need to go to an employer-provided facility or physician.
There are some instances where the employer fails to report the injury and does not begin investigating a workers’ compensation claim. In that case, the worker can file a claim and file a complaint against the employer for noncompliance. For legal help with the workers’ compensation process after being hurt at work, consider contacting a Missouri workers’ compensation attorney at Steelman Gaunt Crowley.
Follow the Doctor’s Treatment Recommendations
Workers must comply with their doctor’s reasonable treatment recommendations and regularly attend all medical appointments. The workers’ compensation insurance company and the employer may look for any reason to deny the claim and not pay appropriate compensation owed to the employee. Gaps in the medical record or evidence of routinely skipped treatments or appointments work against rather than support the underlying worker’s benefits’ claim.
Comply with the Employer’s Workers’ Compensation Insurance Investigation
The employer informs their workers’ compensation insurance provider that a worker has experienced an on-the-job injury. After this occurs, the insurance provider and the employer typically investigate the accident and the injuries suffered by the employee. It is in the employee’s best interest to comply with and engage in the investigation process to help smooth the path to receiving benefits.
The employer’s insurance provider may be looking for any reason to deny coverage and may interpret an employee’s resistance to the investigation process as a red flag. Any delays to the procedure for reviewing the underlying claim disadvantage the injured worker who, in the meantime, cannot work.
Prepare for the Workers’ Compensation Hearing
In most cases, workers, their employers, and the workers’ compensation insurance provider typically reach a settlement agreement without needing to go to court before the Division of Workers’ Compensation. That said, there are some instances where the employee may decide to pursue a hearing because they disagree with the outcome of their benefits claim. At the hearing, an administrative law judge will review the evidence and hear arguments put forth by the parties regarding the claim.
The administrative law judges typically request copies of the injured worker’s medical records and other documents so they can adequately understand the underlying claim. Complying with requests for additional information is extremely important because the judge cannot make an informed decision if they do not have the necessary documents and evidence. Further, when an employee resists or causes delays in the process, it does not reflect well on their overall claim.
File a Timely Appeal if the Claim Is Denied
After the hearing, the administrative law judge issues a binding decision, either granting or denying the claim for workers’ compensation benefits. If the employee disagrees with the decision, they can first file an appeal with the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission.
If the Commission denies the employee’s claim, the employee can file a second appeal with the Missouri Court of Appeals. In rare circumstances, employees can file a third appeal with the Missouri Supreme Court, but they must request permission for the court to hear the case, and it is very uncommon for the court to accept such as request.
Contact an Experienced Missouri Workers’ Compensation Attorney To Learn More
A work injury can significantly disrupt someone’s life, causing them to experience pain, discomfort, and dissatisfaction with their lives. Taking the above steps after being hurt at work can possibly help smooth the path to receiving workers’ compensation benefits and returning to work. If you are hurt at work, consider contacting the Missouri workers’ compensation attorneys at Steelman Gaunt Crowley by calling 573-341-8336.